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Remembering 9/11: Darryl Worley’s “Have You Forgotten?”

Darryl Worley + Have You Forgotten

In 2003, country crooner Darryl Worley dropped “Have You Forgotten?” as the first single and title track of his same-titled compilation album. It was a post-9/11 anthem, which he co-wrote with Wynn Varble and produced by Frank Rogers and James Stroud under DreamWorks. He and Varble knew that the song was powerful, but they didn’t know it would be so impactful.

In its fifth week, the song jumped to number one on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and reigned for seven weeks. But it wasn’t simply a chart-topping hit, it was also Worley’s biggest hit (up until now) that reshaped his career. It evolved from being an anthem into a patriotic battle cry that millions of people resounded. 

In fact, just two days after finishing the song, he debuted it on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry as a salute to veterans. He felt it was the perfect timing to One of his managers at the time actually objected to his plan, but he didn’t care. He reasoned, “It’s three chords and the truth.” That and the fact that nobody would know if he ever made a mistake because he never played it in public before. 

And when he did, it received an extended standing ovation, and was invited to play it again the following night on the televised portion. And in no time, bootleg live versions of the song were played on the country radio. It was that big. 

Meaning Behind the Song

Worley said that the success of the song came from their courage to say whatever they wanted to. They didn’t try to follow anybody’s formula and just listened to their hearts. 

The song was actually born out of a heated confrontation he had after returning from the Middle East playing for US troops. He was at the gym in his hometown when a man came up to him and started spewing about how the government should withdraw its troops. But the guy didn’t seemingly remember the fact that his daughter was trapped in New York City when the towers fell due to the attack. He wanted to grab the guy’s throat and ask him, “Have you forgotten?” 

When he recounted the experience to his co-writer, the statement just stood out. Varble told him that it was the question that they needed to do. 

The intro sings of the moment that inspired the song, “I hear people saying we don’t need this war /I say there’s some things worth fighting for.” They then went on to talk about their freedom and their land and how they didn’t get to keep them by backing down. The first verse ended with a powerful line, “Before you start your preaching / Let me ask you this my friend.”

In the chorus, they ask, “Have you forgotten how it felt that day” and proceed to take listeners on a terrifying trip down memory lane. They even explicitly used Bin Laden’s name in the lyrics. In the second verse, they went even deeper into it and talked about how the media played the tragedy: by not showing it. But after all they’d been through, their country said they deserved the right to look out for a fight. 

In the last verse, they wrote about the soldiers who had gone away to war and who they can bet can remember just what they were fighting for. 

In ninety minutes, the song was finished.

“Have You Forgotten?” by Darryl Worley drew criticisms for conveying a pro-war message. But to the singer, he was just singing about the truth. Listen to it in the video below.